IRAN - News and information fall victim to electoral coup



    MONTREAL, June 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The Iranian authorities are continuing a
crackdown on journalists and information that began after the announcement of
the disputed presidential election results. Journalists are still being
arrested and more censorship measures have been adopted as President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad's allies try to suppress media coverage of fraud allegations.
    "Independent sources of news and information find it very hard to make
their voice heard now in Iran because of the censorship," Reporters Without
Borders said. "The authorities are tightening their grip on all news media and
means of communication that could be used to dispute Ahmadinejad reelection
'victory'. They are doing everything possible to limit coverage of the
consequences of the election fraud."
    Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal to the international
community not to recognise the results of the presidential election first
round held on 12 June.
    "A democratic election is one in which the media are free to monitor the
electoral process and investigate fraud allegations but neither of these two
conditions has been met for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supposed reelection,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the international community,
especially European countries, not to recognise the results announced by the
authorities as long as the electoral process is subject to censorship. An
election won by means of censorship and arrests of journalists is not
democratic."

    Media and Internet censorship

    The security services have moved into the offices of newspapers where
they are reading articles and censoring content. Mehdi Karoubi, one of the
candidates, referred to the censorship in a press release. "I cannot even
publish my release in my newspaper Etemad Meli," he said.
    The newspaper's front page (displayed on http://www.roozna.com/) shows a
photo of Ahmadinejad at a rally with columns left blank because of editing by
the censors. The newspaper Velayat in the province of Qazvin (north of Tehran)
has been suspended for publishing a cartoon of Ahmadinejad.
    Even governmental news sources have been targeted in the crackdown. Four
interior ministry officials have been arrested for given results that were
different from those announced by Ahmadinejad's allies.
    Four of the leading pro-reform newspapers have been closed or prevented
from criticising the official election results following a warning from Tehran
prosecutor general Said Mortazavi. Kalameh Sabaz, a daily owned by opposition
presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, was one of these. Its distribution
was blocked and it was forced to change a front page announcing Mousavi's
victory. It has not been able to publish any issue since 13 June.
    The authorities have also launched a broad offensive against the
Internet, controlling and blocking all news websites likely to challenge
Ahmadinejad's announced victory. Ten or so pro-opposition websites have been
censored.
    They include www.entekhab.ir/ (inaccessible since 11 June),
www.ayandenews.com/ (inaccessible since 12 June), teribon.com/, the pro-reform
sites khordadeno.com/, aftabnews.ir/index.php and ghalamesabz.com/,
norooznews.ir (the news website of the pro-Mousavi Islamic Participation
Party) and www.ghalamsima.com/ (which also supports the Mousavi campaign). And
the women's rights website www.we-change.org/ has been blocked for the 20th
time.
    The international websites YouTube and Facebook are hard to access. The
mobile phone network is being jammed. The service of the leading mobile phone
operator, which is state controlled, has been suspended since 10 p.m. on 13
June. The SMS messaging network has been cut since the morning of 12 June,
preventing use of Twitter.

    Foreign media targeted

    The blockage of the foreign media has been stepped up. In addition to the
blocking of the BBC's website, the Farsi-language satellite broadcasts of the
VOA and BBC - which are very popular in Iran - have been partially jammed. The
BBC reported that their Farsi broadcasts have been the target of significant
jamming "coming from Iran" since 1245 GM on 12 June, and that the jamming has
been getting steadily worse.
    The authorities yesterday ordered the Tehran bureau of the Arab satellite
TV news station Al-Arabiya closed for a week after it broadcast video of the
first demonstration following the announcement of Ahmadinejad's reelection.
    Foreign journalists have been prevented from covering the demonstrations,
some have been notified that their visas will not be renewed, and some have
been the victims of police violence. A member of a TV crew working for the
Italian station RAI and a Reuters reporter were beaten by police in the
capital. A BBC TV crew was threatened by police at one point, but
demonstrators chased the police away. The correspondents of the German TV
stations ARD and ZDF were forbidden to leave their hotel on 13 June.
    Two Dutch TV journalists working for Nederland 2 were arrested and
expelled. Reporter Yolanda Alvarez of the Spanish television station TVE was
deported together with her crew today.

    Journalists arrested

    Eleven Iranian journalists have been arrested since 12 June. Reza Alijani
(winner of the 2001 Reporters Without Borders-Fondation de France press
freedom prize), Hoda Sabaer and Taghi Rahmani were arrested on 13 June.
Alijani and Rahmani were released yesterday evening. Freelancer Kivan Samimi
Behbani, the former editor of Nameh ("The Letter"), an independent monthly
closed in 2005, and Ahamad Zeydabadi were also arrested and then released.
    Abdolreza Tajik was arrested at midday yesterday at the headquarters of
the newspaper Farhikhtegan by three men in plain-clothes. A member of the
Human Rights Defenders Centre, Tajik has worked for many Iranian publications
that have been closed by the authorities, including Bahar (closed in 2001),
Hambastegi (closed in 2003) and Shargh (closed in 2008).
    Five of the journalists arrested in the past few days are still detained.
They include Said Shariti, the editor of the news website Nooroz, who is being
held by the police, and Mahssa Amrabadi of the daily Etemad Melli. She was
arrested at her home yesterday by intelligence ministry agents who came with a
warrant for the arrest of her husband, fellow-journalist Masoud Bastani. He
was not at home at the time.
    Two women journalists working at the Mousavi campaign headquarters were
physically attacked on 12 June. The Mousavi campaign news centre was ransacked
on 13 June by Ahmadinejad supporters, who destroyed its computers. The Qalam
News agency operated out of this centre.
    There is no word of about 10 other journalists who have either been
arrested or gone into hiding.




For further information:

For further information: Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111,
rsfcanada3@rsf.org


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